WAITING

When I was growing up in rural Arkansas, my dad owned a general store. It wasn’t an impressive place, but it offered most of the things people needed.

It sat just up the road from our house. Every day at noon Dad walked home for dinner. (In the south, daily meals are labeled breakfast, dinner, and supper.)

No “hours of operation” were ever posted at the store, but everyone knew when it was open.

One old man always wanted to buy his groceries between noon and one o’clock.

He did not drive to the store and park his car there. He knew the store was closed.

He drove to our house, where Dad was eating dinner.

Mr. Grump didn’t park on the side of the road by our house. (We had no driveway.)

He drove his old-timey, heavy, black car up to the verge of our yard.

There he sat, scowling, waiting for Dad to open the store especially for him.

From behind our living room curtains, my siblings and I watched him: an angry old man, hunched inside a gangster car, its shiny grill aimed right at our front porch.

We pivoted our heads to glance at Dad and then at the man in our front yard.

Everyone waited.

Nervously, we kids waited for what might be an explosion.

The old man waited for Dad to leave his hot dinner on the table and open the store for him.

Dad simply waited to finish his meal and do whatever he usually did during his dinner break. Probably he visited the bathroom and checked on his hunting dogs in the pen at the back of the house.

Then, with a nod to the waiting shopper, he walked back to the store, the black car trailing him.

It strikes me today, reflecting on this memory, that we are all waiting.

Like memories, some of our waiting is short-term. We wait for the toast to pop up, and for the commercial to end so we can resume watching our show.

Some of our waiting is long-term. Right now, we are all waiting for this virus to run its course and leave us in peace.

Some of us wait nervously, fearing the worst.

Others wait angrily, personally affronted and wishing someone would make the world spin to their liking.

But some push past fear and anger to keep moving forward. They keep, as nearly as possible, to their usual productive routines.

Patience cannot be overrated.

My dad, Bob James

1930-1995

He learned patience through the things he endured.

24 thoughts on “WAITING”

  1. I love this, Debbie! I miss your Dad. I wish so much that his great grandkids could have known him.

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      1. Don’t we all, Mary? We can only grow in patience by practicing it, and that is NOT easy to do. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  2. Oh the long-term memories this brought back. I, as one of the nervous children looking at Daddy, can see it playing out in my mind. The cornbread with the pinched off corner, the bird picture on the wall, the smell of pinto beans..good memories even in the tenseness of certain occasions like this. Thank you for using your gift of writing to bring it all into focus. ❤️

    1. Thank you, sister. Yes, they were good days for the most part. We were privileged children, not in monetary or ingulgent ways, but in having love surrounding us all the time.

  3. Debbie, I loved the way you “pictured” the story. I can see it in my mind’s eye. Your dad provided you and your siblings a good example in how he handled this man. There will always be those people in our lives. As to patience, I NEED it, and God provides me lots of practice. Here’s the goal: ” Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Ephesians 4:2 NIV

    1. You are right, Terri, and patience is developed in us when we PRACTICE IT. Boy, that’s a tough one for me too. We just keep trying to grow up into the women God created us to be. Thankfully, God is infinitely patient with us!

  4. What a great story. I think we all rush too much feeling like the world owes us something. I cannot tell you how many times people have apologized to me at the checkout because they feel they are moving slow. I just smile and tell them to take their time, I’m in no hurry. I think your Dad knew something of value that many people miss.

    1. Yes, Maggie. I try to be patient with clerks too. Lately, I’ve taken to looking at their nametags, and saying, “Thank you, Joyce,” for example. Mostly, I’m thankful I do not have to work behind a counter. I see so much rudeness and, as you said, expressions that indicate the world owes us something.

      1. They are exposed continuously to people all day long, which includes those who do not seem to care about the health and well-being of others. Such a hard time to have a job like that.

  5. Hi, Debbie! Loved your story of your Dad and the old grump. Reminded me of men who would come to our house on Sunday morning for my Dad to cut their hair even though they knew full well that we went to church on Sunday. My Dad was song leader and the only one in our little church who could lead singing. So services didn’t start until we got there. I’ve wondered how many of those men got a quick rather than a good haircut so we could get to church on time. Daddy was genial about it, and they always came back – on a Sunday morning, of course! Southerners are a treasure!

    1. Hard to believe! Mom and Dad opened the store often for people outside of regular store hours. This old guy (as I recall it) came ONLY when the store was closed. I guess the “entitlement complex” existed long before we had a name for it. Thanks for reading and commenting, Ellen!

  6. Hi Debbie! I enjoyed reading this blog and it never fails that I learn something applicable just for Becky when I read your blogs. Patience, waiting, oh dear. I’m working on that all the time!

    1. I have a short supply of patience too, Becky. I believe we acquire it only through practice. People who have endured the most disappointments sometimes have the most patience. I’ve had a pretty easy life, so I tend to be intolerant and want things WHEN I want them!

  7. I like this article, a great way to size up this game of waiting, with a little patience thrown in. You have such interesting memories.

    1. I’ve reached that age, Shirley, where I remember long ago events better than recent events. I spend half my life looking for things I had 10 minutes ago, especially my phone! I would lose my glasses, except I can’t see without them so I take them off only when I shower or sleep.

    1. Glenda, this one sticks in my mind clearly. I’ve asked my siblings if they remember this old man. Joni says she thinks she does. It wasn’t uncommon for people to ask Mom or Dad to open the store for them outside of regular hours, but this old guy (as I remember it) NEVER came around anytime except when he knew it was closed. Guess he had what today is called an “entitlement complex.”

  8. I enjoy your stories, Debbie. Even more because they’re true! It makes me think about the fact that God is not nervous at all even while we nervously wait for things. He’s going to do things on schedule.

    1. Pearl, I am thankful for good memories and thankful that I have so many of them, thanks to good parents, grandparents, etc.

      I know you work every day to make good memories for your sweet children!

    2. Pearl, sometimes I contemplate how wonderful it will be in Heaven, not having to worry or be afraid of ANYTHING.  Because you like my stories about my rural upbringing, I will tell you this short one. When Daylight Savings Time was introduced way back when, my great-aunt and great-uncle (stubbornest people you could ever imagine) refused to practice changing their clocks. “We’re staying on God’s time,” they declared. As you can imagine, they were out of sync with everyone and everything around them.  They didn’t have a TV, and they walked across the road to watch Bonanza on our television each week. Yep! Their refusal to get with the program caused them to miss their beloved TV show. Talk about being aggravated!!!! In Heaven, there will be no time, as we know it here. Won’t that be something!! Debbie

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